The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting a little smaller thanks to a new effort to clean it up.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn't exactly one patch: it's several patches, including the West, East, and Northern Garbage Patches. According to researchers from The Ocean Cleanup, an organization dedicated to exactly what's in their name, the total area covered by those patches is about 1.6 million square kilometers or 1 million square miles.
Besides being just plain gross, it's awful for the environment. Plastic doesn't biodegrade, so it just floats there. But not forever--the combined action of the sun's rays and the ocean's waves eventually break down floating plastic into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. These plastics get ingested by marine life and just flat-out kill them. And that's only if they survive the many thousands of miles of discarded fishing nets and nylon-braided ropes.
It's bad. Real bad. And until recently, it was only getting worse. But The Ocean Cleanup announced today that they have successfully developed a system that will clean it up.
They call it System 001/B, and it’s not exactly a ship. It’s more like a giant ocean rake that uses the ocean’s own currents to collect plastic which can then be hauled out of the water by a ship.
The system is remarkably simple. A giant raked end is anchored by a small ocean parachute that causes the rake to travel slower than the current around it. Then plastic gets captured in the rake since it’s moving faster. It’s not a net, so fish and marine life are able to just swim around. Then, after a few weeks, a boat comes to pick up the rake and collect all that plastic.
System 001/B launched from Vancouver back in June and was able to collect plastic as small as 1 mm in diameter. Now, The Ocean Plastic is presenting their findings to prove that cleaning up the ocean can be done with just a little bit of effort and a whole lot of know-how.
(Source: The Ocean Cleanup)